Artist Statement: Cassie Sullivan

i have drowned here

in these waters

of brine 

and salt

and preservation

The ancestors hang here. Float, suspended in the neverwhere and the everywhen. 

A succession of experiences, of traumas, of attempted erasures. Those forced to sacrifice ceremony for survival. 

Country holds a space for them here, will always know them. And I hold them here, in my sinew and my skin.

They cried that they needed healing in the only language I knew how to hear. 

I took a piece of tarlatan, a cloth of care, of wound mending, and I threw it into the sea. The only place I’ve ever felt home. 

I have pulled and pushed the tarlatan through our waterways, watched it breathe in the tidal inlets. Letting in the tannins from the mountains, letting out the brine. Swallowing the language of salt and blood-stained water. 

I meet them here, in the intertidal drifts of the melukerdee and nuenonne. And I listen. Collecting knowledge of place, relearning a somatic language, growing a vocabulary of grief.

As I work the ink and salt-soaked tarlatan into each monotype, I embed myself here too, in these pieces that are the height of me, in this material, that has been torn to my proportions. My muscles ache at the work being done. The imprinted narrative shifts alongside me.

Positive, negative.

Present, missing.

Floating, bound.

I walk amongst the hauntings of transgenerational communication. 

My body remembers them.

Are you a morning or a night person?

I am a night person. There is something very particular about the arrival of the dusk light that makes my body stop and take notice of the landscape around me.

Is there a sound or song that prompts a where or when for you?

The calls of the mangana, the yellow tailed black cockatoo brings me straight home, both physically and metaphorically. I can feel my head lift and my shoulders drop as soon as I hear them.

Is there something you’ve always collected?

I’d have to say photos. I first turned to photography in an attempt to document feelings of place and people, I’m still on that journey. It helps me take the time to connect with people and culture and there is something inherently precious in the memories a printed photograph represents.

Where do you feel the most connected / where do you feel the most disconnected?

I feel most connected when I can see the ocean, it’s a curiously grounding space for me, full of depth and opposing natures. I feel most disconnected when I’m away from family, I can operate separately from them, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

What scares you the most right now / what brings you hope and/or inspires?

I think the dangerous, untrue and unfair rhetoric around queer and trans people is what scares me the most currently, along with the ability for a majority public with no skin in the game to make decisions that deeply affect people’s lives. The thing that brings me the most hope is the unique stories of open minded and big-hearted people in my life. I have so many inspiring people I get to interact with daily. I feel so lucky to have conversations about the complex layers that can be held within this existence.

Through the process of making your new commission for Between Waves, what has been clear/revealed and/or become more complicated/obscured?

It’s become clearer to me that my practice is trying to give voice to those who are part of the lost generations. My ancestors and the stories of those in my community that haven’t always been given a platform to tell their histories of being hidden, adopted out, renamed, erased from documentation, shamed, dismissed etc. It’s becoming more and more important for me to acknowledge them and hopefully heal our ancestral lines by doing so. This quickly becomes complex in the current climate of politicisation of indigenous bodies and the identities they hold.